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Labriola’s Italian Beef Sandwich Upgrades a Chicago Classic

No soggy mess here.

Photo: Nick Kindelsperger

Price Point: $10.95 for Italian Beef on Baguette

The Italian beef stands out rightly as one of Chicago’s most distinctive hometown sandwiches, a mess of gravy-soaked meat which should arrive topped with pickled giardiniera and roasted peppers. As great as the sandwich can be, most versions are built on soft and soulless rolls that offer little flavor of their own. In contrast, Labriola Baking Company specializes in exactly the other kind of bread—distinctive, crisp loaves that are good enough to eat solo. So what happens if you build an Italian beef on really good bread?

You can find out the answer at the recently opened Labriola Café and Bakery (535 N. Michigan Ave., 312-955-3100, labriolacafe.com). The Italian beef here comes out on a crackly baguette, which defiantly stands up to the juicy shards of meat. If anything, one could say it holds up too well, requiring one to chew with a little more force than usual. However, any extra effort pays off, as the bread also helps to control the chaos while bringing some flavor. 

As interesting as the bread is, in the end, the key component to this sandwich is the same as every other great version—the beef. Tender and remarkably juicy, the slices stand out as some of the beefiest and most satisfying around. You can up the insanity by adding melted provolone for $1.25, but that borders on the edge of ridiculousness.

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